Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Whisky Discovery #221

Pendleton Blended Canadian Whisky NAS (40% abv)
Canadian Blended Whisky
Not yet available in the UK

I was very fortunate to get a couple of 'colts' of this following a Twitter conversation with the guys and girls of @Pendletonwhisky. I'd not long launched my blog and only just joined Twitter and was posting tweets regarding my journey to date. Asked if I had tried any of their Whisky in my journey to date, I replied that I hadn't yet but it would be on the list. I then went to find out a little more, see where it was available and was unable to find any listing in the UK and cheekily asked if they would be able to send me a couple of 'Colts' which is what their miniature bottles are called.

I was told that US postal rules forbade them to send samples through the mail to me, but they did have some company representatives coming to the UK later in the year, and they would bring some for me, if we could meet up. "Great" I said! 

There was quite a wait between the original conversation, but nearer the time of the planned UK trip I was contacted with a proposed schedule. Being a recent member of the SMWS I was hoping to be able to take the Pendleton representative to the London home, but due to his tight schedule unfortunately we weren't able to actually meet up, but two colts were left with the hotel concierge for me to collect at my leisure.

So this is what I found out from Pendleton:

I wasn't able to find out the distillery it is made at, but can tell you there are three very large distilleries that do 90% of all distillation in Canada, all three are contract distillers producing a unique product for each customer. The mash bill changes from year to year depending on what mother nature brings, grains, just like grapes will vary depending on rainfall, temperature, soils, etc.  It is made up of mainly corn with a less than 10% rye mix, but again will vary from year to year.

The spirit is distilled and aged in Canada and just as Canadian Whiskies do, used Bourbon barrels are used, but they are each re-charred to a specific type, and was told they use a 'type two' or 'medium charring' which will produce a nice soft, smooth, vanilla, caramel, slight maple flavour.

The matured whisky is then transported in bulk to Hood River, Oregon for blending and bringing down to bottling strength of 40% abv and they are very proud to tell you that their water comes from the highest peak in Oregon, Mount Hood, which the peak of is covered in snow and ice year round, so the water used is fresh glacier water run-off from the mountain.

There is no age statement, but the average age is circa ten year, but again this varies from year to year in order to maintain a specific taste profile. It has been said that it could me marketed with a 7 or 8 Year Old statement, but chose not to, however with an average age of ten years means that there are often 12 and 15 year old whiskies in the mix, again to gain a specific taste.

So what did we think?

Kat Says: Not knowing anything about this whisky before I sampled it, I wasn't aware of its long standing connections with the sport of rodeo. I only found out after I had emptied my sample bottle. With hindsight I should be more observant and guessed from the picture on the bottle - a cowboy riding a bucking horse.

However that said, I'm glad that I didn't know anything about this whisky before I sampled it as it didn't give me a chance to form any preconceptions. I would have expected a whisky that’s fit for rough n’ tough cowboys and girls would be bold, gutsy, and being very cliché here, with a kick to it. But this really wasn't It was more delicate and calm, so here’s my tasting note:

On the nose I got a sweet note that reminded me of the sweet, 'Bassett’s Fruit Salad', and then got an overall sense of freshness, like a crisp spring morning with a light scent of freshly cut grass. At the end, after all the liquid had left the glass, what was left was a delightful aroma of burnt sugars. However I wasn't able to pick up this scent at the beginning. 

The freshness carries on into the pallet, for me it crisp note in the nose has transformed into a zesty citrus quality that is nicely balanced with the sweetness, that I'm really glad didn't taste of the Fruit Salads. I think if it did, it might have made this whisky too heavy and lose its fresh qualities. There are some spiked notes of nutmeg and an antiseptic TCP hint to it (that’s probably the alcohol evaporating off my taste buds) which is more pleasant than it sounds. The only thing that was disappointing is that these flavours seemed to disappear so quickly, wish they would stay for ten more seconds so I can enjoy them for a moment longer. Two words: short and sweet. 

The ending does last for a bit longer, simplistically of green oak and that crisp quality. I would class it as a medium finish. Overall for me it was an easy to drink whisky that’s fuss free.

Dave Says: I too found the nose very sweet, but wrote down 'Birds Custard' as the highlight of my 'find' It brought back memories of puddings at home and my Mum's custard (which came from the Bird's custard power tin. I also jotted down Honey, vanilla and a floral note too.

On the palate it was much less sweet than the nose had suggested and crisper and brighter with a light citric sourness to that reminded me almost instantly of 'chocolate limes' There's a lot of grains and the rye comes out towards the end. The limes were evident on the short and sweet finish that had a light rye spiciness. Going back to the empty bottle later and toffee popcorn, with a little walnut nuttiness.

A very enjoyable dram, and very easy drinking. It's not overly complex, but there's certainly enough to hold your interest, perhaps a little more abv would lengthen the finish, but given the opportunity, I'd have a bottle on the shelf. It's not yet available in the UK, so will won't be able to taste this again in a hurry. The Pendleton range consists of this 'core' expression and a 12 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky, named Pendleton 1910 that I would really like to try.

The last part of the story, is the rich heritage of the 'Pendleton Roundup' which just celebrated its 102nd year of competition and celebrating the western lifestyle.

It's also worth mentioning the awards Pendleton has won: Fast track growth brand 2010, 2011-Beverage Information Group, gold medal 2011 – SIP competition, gold medal 2009- World Spirit Competition, “92” points 2009 -The Tasting Panel.

Speaking to Canadian friends recently I learnt that this Canadian Whisky is not actually available in Canada yet! However it should be available in all US States, and was told that building the US business is their current priority before taking it overseas
Many thanks to HRD Spirits for the samples, as they say at the rodeo’s:  Let’er Buck

For more information check out HOOD RIVER DISTILLERS, INC. on-line at and and you can also follow them on  Facebook, Linkedln and Twitter

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